31 October 2022

Crested Honey Buzzards possible breeding – Deffi Park

Whilst birding Deffi Park I came across four Crested Honey Buzzard perched in the trees and lampposts of the park. There was an adult male, adult female and two juvenile birds, indicating breeding could have taken place nearby. Birds have been seen throughout the year in Deffi Park with regular sightings in the summer months. If these birds did breed it would be a first known case for the Kingdom. Birds have been using this park for at least five consecutive winters with records noted until April but 2022 has seen records throughout the summer months. Crested Honey Buzzard in Saudi Arabia is a scarce passage migrant and winter visitor that also occurs rarely in summer. Most records are from the Eastern province in winter and spring with additional records in the west of the country in autumn, winter and spring. Deffi Park is a landscaped park in Jubail with a large number of mature trees which the Crested Honey Buzzards like perching in. Unfortunately walkers in the park disturbed the birds before I got the chance to get close for photographs, but at least I managed to see them before they were disturbed.

29 October 2022

Waders - Jubail

Waders are still passing through in reasonable numbers some of which are allowing good opportunities for photography. Pied Avocet is a species that is now almost resident in Jubail with breeding birds found the last three years. Dunlin is a species that was common in the 1980’s then became less common but is again increasing in numbers each year. Common Ringed Plover is another common species but the most common wader is Little Stilt with many hundreds seen each visit. Ruddy Turnstone is a less common species but still seen regularly with Lesser Sand Plover another species whose numbers have apparently decreased in recent years.

Pied Avocet

Ruddy Turnstone

Little Stint

Little Stint

Little Stint



Common Ringed Plover

27 October 2022

White-throated Kingfisher - Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area I came across and photographed a White-throated Kingfisher. The bird was calling loudly, but I did not see a second bird. This bird has been around the whole of the year in this area and the species is now resident in very small numbers in the Jubail area. It has been noted regularly throughout the year in two different sites in Jubail in 2022. This species has spread rapidly over the last ten years and was classed as a vagrant to the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia as recently as fifteen years ago. Birds breed commonly in Riyadh, 400 km to the west of Jubail, so have presumably spread from this area eastwards.

25 October 2022

Schmidt's Fringed-toed Lizard – Khursaniyah

Whilst looking for Fat Sand Rats in Khursaniyah recently we got excellent views of a couple of Schmidt's Fringed-toed Lizard Acanthodactylus schmidti just outside the car. The lizards would quickly run across the sand and then stop and dig up a black coloured ant, which it would then take to a nearby bush to eat. Once, one found an ant on the surface and remained motionless as the ant came closer and then struck and killed the insect. I have seen this lizard many times before but these were some of the best views and was the first time I had seen one eating ants. Schmidt's Fringed-toed Lizard is one of the most abundant species in the genus Acanthodactylus found in Saudi Arabia and occupies sandy plains, dunes and sabkhas (salt flats), particularly in areas of scrubby vegetation. It was named after Karl Patterson Schmidt, with a type locality of Dhahran, Saudi Arabia and it can be distinguished by the exceptionally long fourth toe found on each of its rear feet. As its name suggests it has 'fringes' of elongated scales along the sides of each toe, which are thought to provide better traction on loose sand. It has a light brown or coffee coloured back that is richly speckled with oval-shaped, pale or white spots and can grow to 18 centimetres in length. They have a cylindrical body with smooth, rectangular scales on the belly that are arranged in well-defined rows and scales on the head that are larger than those on the rest of the body. Little is known about the biology of the species but its main prey is ants and when prey is located they instantly go rigid, suddenly quiver their tail and strike. It is a diurnal species that digs burrows in the sand among the roots of vegetation and is found throughout the Arabian Peninsula including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, southeast Iraq and south-west Iran.

23 October 2022

Sanderling - Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area recently I came across a single Sanderling feeding along the edge of a large area of flooded sabkha. The bird was feeding activel as they always seem to do making getting good photos a little tricky. This is a species that occurs rarely inland in Jubail and was a pleasing find. The Sanderling is a migratory bird that is a common passage migrant and uncommon winter visitor in Saudi Arabia. It occurs on both coasts during migration (Apr–Jun, Sep–Oct) and occasionally inland, especially in spring but is more common on the west coast than the east coast. It prefers sandy beaches but is also less commonly seen on muddy shores and saline lagoons. 

21 October 2022

Fat Sand Rats - Khursaniyah

As one of my daughters wanted to see Fat Sand Rat and she was in Kingdom on summer holidays we set off at 03:00 hrs to try to see some in their noral haunt of Khursaniyah. We got there just as it was becoming light and before any animal activity and positioned the car in a place where we could hopefully see some. As it started to become light, I saw a Fat Sand Rat in a burrow reasonably close and we got some good views as it started to clean its burrow of loose sand. I then saw one quite close in a hole but it disappeared as soon as I saw it and photos of it were not possible. We saw at least seven animals during the morning from 04:30 – 07:00 when activity stopped. We looked around the area after activity stopped and found a couple of newly dug burrows closer to the road in a slightly different area so next time I go back I will see if animals are using these as if they are photographs should be possible and closer. Its diet consists of leaves and stems that they hold with one 'hand' and often wipe before eating and, unlike high-energy seeds, these foods are rather low in energy. As a result, it has to eat around 80 percent of its body weight in food each day to obtain sufficient energy. The fat sand rat does not need to drink water, a useful adaptation in arid habitats, and instead can get all the water it needs by feeding on the leaves of the saltbush which are up to 90 percent water and licking morning dew. 

19 October 2022

A few migrants - Aqua Park

Last weekend in Jubail, I saw a few migrants at Aqua Park. I arrived at first light and as the park was being watered spent the first hour looking at the birds on the grassy areas. Here I noted a few migrants like a couple of Spotted Flycatcher and three Tree Pipit with up to ten Yellow Wagtail. The park is neat to a water area and here there were a few waders such as Eurasian Whimbrel, Dunlin, Kentish Plover and Black-winged Stilts. Egrets were numerous with most birds being Indian Reef Herons and a few Slender-billed Gulls were also present. A single duck noted at some distance turned out to be a female Northern Pintail on closer inspection. The trees held a few birds with a Masked Shrike noted along with a Lesser Whitethroat and birds flying over included good numbers of both Barn Swallow and Sand Martin.

Northern Pintail

Spotted Flycatcher

Tree Pipit

Yellow Wagtail

Yellow Wagtail

17 October 2022

Libyan Jirds – Khafra Marsh

As my daughters are back in Saudi Arabia for the summer school holidays and one wanted to see the Libyan Jirds I had seen earlier in the year. As a result, we set off from home at 03:45 in late August to get to Jubail for first light. By 05:15 just as it was getting light, we noticed the first Jirds on the side of the road where I had seen them before. The sun was not up, but as the animals were very close photography was possible. We stayed looking at the Jirds for a couple of hours and during this time the light became better and better photographs could be taken. Once the temperature started to get too hot, around 07:00 the jirds started to disappeare down their burrows. The underground burrow system of these animals is extensive and often they would go down one hole and reappear hortly after some distance away out of another burrow. The climate of Saudi Arabia is characteristically harsh with rainfall being sporadic and unpredictable and temperatures often climbing well above 40 °C. Under such conditions food resources and water are scarce, yet many small mammals can survive and reproduce, one of the most successful being the Libyan Jird Meriones libycus. The Libyan Jird is one of the most widely distributed species among rodents, ranging across nearly the entire Palearctic Desert Belt from Morocco in Northwest Africa to China. It occupies desert and semidesert habitats, generally in areas with stabilized dunes. It becomes most abundant in unflooded river plains, and it is often found close to wadies and occasionally in arable land. A recent study defined subspecies limits within Meriones libycus into three allopatric lineages within M. libycus: Western lineage in North Africa Meriones libycus libycus, Central lineage in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria M. l. syrius, and Eastern lineage in Iran, Afghanistan, and China Meriones libycus erythrourus.